It’s been quite some time since we discussed the latest amazing advances in robotics and explored the utopian future in which these wondrous machines will entertain, assist and murder us all.
Over the years I’ve learned that being a visionary prophet is not just about foretelling the blood-soaked dawn of the Robocalypse. It’s about doing so with expressive hand gestures and cool sound effects. To me, it’s never been a question of if robots will rise up—it’s a question of when, and where, and will they accept me as one of their own if I wear a Crock-Pot on my head and make R2-D2 sounds? Because if not, I’ve really been wasting my weekends.
So let’s take a look at some recent robotic advances and see where they rank on the Kill-Us-All-o-Meter—with one being an innocuous development unlikely to lead to the extermination of our species, and 10 being a guy at Cyberdyne Systems saying, “Hey, I know, let’s call it Skynet!”
Progress: A group of scientists successfully programmed a research robot to order and purchase a sandwich from Subway.
Implications: Minimal. Others have possessed this technology for years and humanity has yet to be erased by a lethal uprising at the hands of Jared.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Two out of 10. Look on the bright side: if the sandwich-buying robot does destroy us all, at least no more “$5 foot-long” commercials.
Progress: An assistant professor at UC Berkeley has taught a robot how to fold and stack sweaters with speed and precision.
Implications: This is bad news for Gap employees and anyone wearing a sweater.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Four. Here’s a lesson I learned when my parents kicked me out: once you expect someone to fold your laundry, it’s only a matter of time before they rebel.
Progress: Honda’s adorable ASIMO, perhaps the world’s most famous robot, is now smart enough to copy a person’s dance moves.
Implications: Copy my dance moves, will you? This means war.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Three. Five if I pull my hamstring doing the splits and am unable to complete the dance-off.
Progress: TrueCompanion, the maker of the world’s first female sex robot, is taking pre-orders for a male sexbot named Rocky.
Implications: For one, my wife may want to know why I’m aware that TrueCompanion made the world’s first female sex robot. Also, if Rocky experiences an erection lasting more than four millennia, he is encouraged to see a technician.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Seven. But what a way to go!
Progress: Mitt Romney won the Republican Nevada caucuses.
Implications: Romney has impressed humans with his lifelike flip-flopping and a hairdo manufactured from space-age polymers.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Six. On one hand, he’s got a good shot at gaining access to the launch codes to the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. On the other, we’d all be dead in six months with Gingrich anyway.
Progress: iRobot has started to manufacture Warrior, a wheeled robot designed for military use.
Implications: Warrior weighs 450 lb., comes with a two-metre mechanical arm and can be weaponized to shoot a rocket that trails explosives behind it.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: One. He sounds nice.
Progress: A Tokyo retailer placed a robot in its Valentine’s Day display window to interact with passersby.
Implications: Sure, the robot can yawn and form a couple of facial expressions, but that makes it only as advanced as certain toys and most teenagers. More troubling is the fact this may finally give Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall the fresh hook they need to pitch that sequel to Mannequin.
Kill-Us-All-o-Meter: Zero. But the release of Mannequin 2012: Still Posin’ would score through the roof on the Kill-Ourselves-o-Meter.